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EDITORIAL COLUMN   Rated "M" for Mature

Here's the real Y2k bug
By Tim Martin -- Reviews Editor
Published June 19, 2003
Previous Editions
You've got to be Kidd-ing me 6/17/03

A funny way to relieve some LeBron stress 6/15/03

When good sports games get old... 6/7/03

The rumors have been confirmed. The silence is broken. The NFL 2k series is dead as we know it. So, too are the NHL, NBA and World Series 2k series.

Gone. Obliterated. And most of all, confusing.

What the name change? With the release of NFL 2k, err, ESPN NFL Football less than 60 days away, why in the world would you change the name? You're only going to confuse the casual football/sports gamer that EA has succeeded so well in retaining.

Hell, when I think of ESPN NFL football, I immediately think of the gaudy games that were released under the same names a few years ago with Konami. Remember ESPN International Track & Field? How about ESPN International Winter Sports? Hey, ESPN NBA 2 Night wasn't so bad ... if you had traded in your copy of Dr. J versus Bird to get it.

My words are harsh, but this is one more questionable marketing decision by Sega in a long list of them. The sudden switch is like when Sunkist turned to Fanta Orange or when J.R. Rider changed his name to Isiah Rider then back. It's an unneccessary confusion in a stiff business world where timing is everything.

I mean, who's advising these people? Martha Stewart or Enron.

I'll probably be accused of being an EA fanboy, but there's a reason why their games fly off the shelves and Sega's don't. Love him, hate him, Madden's game is the most popular and powerful sports game on the market. We see commercials and television ads, but what they have succeeded in doing is stay consistent.

I'm curious how this merger is going to work out because conceptually it's like a one-legged pair of pants. Undoubtedly, sports gaming's most popular sub-genre is football. That said, EA owns the play-by-play rights of the most recognizable faces and names ESPN/ABC has to offer: Kirk Hirbstreit, Lee Corso and Brad Nessler in college football and John Madden and Al Michaels in the NFL. It just doesn't make sense to me.

It would be like Jerry Reinsdort, owner of the Chicago White Sox, buying the Chicago Cubs and merging the two teams, but leaving Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Sammy Sosa and Corey Patterson behind.

Hmmm, Erik Karros?! Yippeee!!! (I'm a ginormous Cubs fan by the way, so don't rip me on that). On the press release, it said Chris "Back-back-back-back" Berman will handle the announcing duties. As much as I love his nicknames, I don't know if I would want him and Mike Tirico (his name's not confirmed, but I'm sure he's a possibility) announcing my football game.

But if they get Bill Walton...

I can only assume if ESPN has paid the money to gain naming rights and advertise it on its network, it will want a big part in what and what is not put in the game. I mean, this isn't Joe Millionaire.

ESPN, which last year handled the presentation and play-by-play for all the Sega Sports games, is completing its coup of the beloved "underdog" sports franchise. I loved Sega Sports because it had balls. The company had the guts, and the cult-like following, to put out an innovative product every year. I just hope it doesn't succumb to the money like Anna Nicole Smith.

"With ESPN Videogames, sports gamers will experience the same level of fun, realism and competition that they know and demand from the '2K' games, but with an all new presentation and attitude only ESPN can help us deliver," said Greg Thomas, president of Visual Concepts Entertainment in the press release.

I can't say I didn't see this merger coming. Sega needed the PR and the money and ESPN needed a better sports game producers than Konami. But big corporate money and advertising isn't necessarily a good thing.

The best golf series of all-time, the Links series, has disappeared of the face of the earth. Sure, Microsoft is pimping the series out now on the X-Box, but the series was at one time synonimous with golf gaming. I'm afraid Visual Concepts will be forced to make decisions, not for the fans, but for the corporate buck.

For Mickey Mouse. For Stuart Scott's new glasses.

I was one of many game reviewers to praise Sega for its inclusion of the ESPN presentation in last year's wave of games. I loved it. I couldn't be anymore "Boo-Yah!" happy, but ESPN for all its glory and sports fame, is what it is, a business.

Rich Eisen, famous for the "He gat it" home run call, was dismissed from the company because he didn't work enough Sportscenters. Can or will the same happen to Visual Concepts if they do not meet ESPN's standards? Will the ingenuity we are used to be taken away for more mascot teams and more-detailed cheerleaders? Will the built-in Hall of Fame in franchise mode be skipped over for another 50 polygons on Edgerrin James' gold teeth?

Sega Sports was able to put a dent in the Microsoft-esque monopoly EA Sports had on the sports gaming market (God, remember when GameDay was Madden's biggest competitor?). Critics like our own James Smith rated many of the SS games better than EA's, but now things are taking a turn for the worst - I think.

Whether or not the quality of the game suffers is probably an irrelevant point, but the switch in name, at this time is dumbfounding. I'll welcome the games, my former babies and sole reason why I bought a Dreamcast for $200 three years ago, but I'll be weary of what it may become.

Rated "M" for Mature will return periodically.

Martin has worked at SGN since 1999 reviewing games, editing reviews, and conducting interviews; is a sports writer for the Kankakee (Ill.) Daily Journal; has covered sports and news for various newspapers; and worked at multi-platform and multi-console Armchair Empire. He has been published in both print and on the web.

If you have any comments or concerns on the column or suggestions for future columns, you can contact Tim through our: feedback page.

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